Sunday, 2 December 2012

A Change of Era: Warhammer Ancients

Apparently there are periods other than Napoleonic?! We at the ANF like to dabble occasionally in other eras for a bit of light relief and to remind ourselves why our “first love” is the “real stuff”!
The particular dalliance with another period of history belatedly reported in this post was a bit special as it marked the beginning of what we hope will become a tradition; the ANF Australia Day Game. As we prepared for our epic Eylau game in early February 2012, we scheduled a bit of such ‘light relief’ in the form of a game of Warhammer Ancients, to be held on 27th January 2012, the day after the Australian national day.
The game was a fictitious battle, somewhere in Italy during the Second Punic War. Having played a bit of Rome Total War (yes <<expletive deleted>> a computer game!), I thought that the Carthaginian phalanx would stand up to the early legionaries fairly well. Unfortunately, I did not have such troops in this army and should have paid more attention to the army set-up given to me, rather than trying to extrapolate my glorious victories in the virtual world! 
Initial set-up from the Carthaginian right flank

This time from the Roman left

Looking along most of the Roman line
The Carthaginian battle plan was to try to disrupt the Romans with skirmishing javelin-men and Numidian light cavalry, and let the legions flay themselves on the ends of the pikes (trouble was, they were merely spears). Meanwhile the ancient version of the tank (i.e. elephant), would travel around the left flank and into the rear of the Romans to wreak havoc. For his part, Julian Africanus’ plan was to launch his legions against the Carthaginian line in all haste, while simultaneously sending cavalry around both flanks.
The action began promisingly for the Carthaginians as the skirmishers, and especially the Numidian cavalry, scored some hits and enjoyed their art of ‘sting and run’.
Carthaginian 'sting and run' tactics
Such minor victories were mere distractions to the Roman machine which marched inexorably towards the Carthaginian line.

The Romans advance on their prey
The Romans close in
 There is always confusion in war. I’m sure that my “advisors” suggested that my elephants would easily clear away a few skirmishers, but they attest that they said no such thing and consider it a stupid idea. Either way, they went in and were held-up, harassed and eventually brought down by the ‘lilliputians’!
Carthaginian elephant wasted in attacking light infantry while the Roman cavalry head towards the left flank of the Carthaginian line
The early Roman legionaries made short work of the first units of spearmen and worked towards the supporting units. (The Greek mercenary phalanx, perhaps realising that their side was doomed, refused to commit to the battle!)

The one shining light for the Carthaginians was when their cavalry had the better of some Roman auxilia, turning to face the cavalry, but then flanked by the on-coming legionaries.

Soon with is infantry decimated, Hasdrubal Peco made a desperate last stand in a bid for glory or death!

Hush; listen? Can you hear that sound? Months later Hannibal is still turning in his grave!
Troops, poorly handled, will always be exploited by a superior general who handles his troops well. So, like Ivan Vasilievich Sabaneyev who put eight battalions of Russian infantry in skirmish order at the Battle of Brili, only to see them ridden down by 400 French and Dutch cuirassiers, my spearmen and warband were ‘eaten for breakfast’ by the Roman legionaries. Ah well, we learn at the expense of the incidental ‘lives’ of our inanimate friends who, fortunately, all live to fight another day.
Warhammer Ancients are largely believable rules that produce an enjoyable game. We are happy to use them as our ‘standard’ for any ancient games that we play (with some amendments to come no doubt). For us there is not much competition since none of us like the stylised version of a game that is DBM, or, worse still, DBA (*yuck!*). We may take a look at Field of Glory or perhaps even Might of Arms (which I understand that Mike Manning has adapted for Great Northern War?). Julian, glutton for punishment that he is, is keen that we look at 7th Edition again— “provided you umpire”, was the resounding response from Mark and me!
In fact we have scheduled another ancients game for tomorrow, since we are in the planning phase for our 1813 games and waiting to schedule a mutually convenient day to re-do our Maloyaroslavets game (plus the Berezina battles). This time it will be Republican Romans vs “the barking mad” Britons, which, as the commentary on Rome Total War declares, are “men both mad and brave... in equal measure!”


  1. Very nice James, your units are colorful and the battle seems interesting...I'm a bit disapointed by the elephants, poor pachiderms!
    All the best ,

    1. Thank you Phil. The figures are all Mark's. We played another game yesterday. This time it was the chariots that did not last long!

  2. Another period you say?! Who'd a-thunk it? At least it's still in 1/72nd ;-)

    That reminds me, I've still got a whole lot of late Romans and Goths to paint!

    Enjoyable batrep, James.

  3. Yeah I know. Don't tell anyone!

    It won't happen too often... although that said, we played another game of Warhammer Ancients yesterday and will have a go at Ranger! (which I've not used for many years now) in a fortnight. All just a sideshow while we prepare for our 'asault' on the 1813 campaign!

  4. I have limited Ancient Armies, although we got extensive use out of them with our gridded, Legion! derived and Charles/David Sweet inspired ancient rules (more about which will appear on my blog shortly> Anyway, my Romans and Carthagenians are "double armies". Use Archon 2nd edition (Piquet) for rules. We played a game of Hail Caesar last fall, which was OK. I do hate saving throws as a game mechanism, and it seemed to me that the innumerable special attributes were either weak or seemed to always cancel out. I would play them again, though.

  5. Lovely colourful looking figures and more of your excellent and atmospheric photos - for that I can forgive the fact they're ancients!